I still have to pinch myself every morning when the bus brings me to Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton, New York. A year ago, I was imagining how amazing it would be to work in a place where other scientists have been awarded seven Nobel prizes for their discoveries. Now, I’m no longer imagining what that experience would be like since my dream came true this past fall and I began my master’s in chemistry at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Everything began back in 2012 when I was selected to become an Ecuadorian Fulbright Student, not knowing how this experience would change my life, but excited that it would allow me to do what I love: chemistry. Since my classes began, it has been quite the journey. Getting used to a new educational system, making new friends, and starting my research have made these past few months go by fast. Looking back, I realize just how much this experience has helped me to grow personally and academically.
I also feel very lucky to be able to work on a research project that combines two of my main interests: science and protecting the environment. The research I am currently working on is related to producing biofuels which not only satisfies my quest for knowledge, but is also something that can hopefully help reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuel combustion. I have just started, but I think that everything I am learning will help me get one step closer to becoming a scientist and protecting nature.
Beyond my research, I have made many good friends during my Fulbright grant; friends that I have met at the library, by joining animal welfare clubs at my university, and taking Zumba® classes. Spending time with them has been a learning experience outside of the classroom, and I have come to realize how similar we are, even though we are from different parts of the world.
Being a Fulbrighter has meant realizing my dream of becoming a scientist and a chance to share my culture with others. I know that I still have a long way to go with my research and that it won’t be easy. In some ways, this experience is the just the beginning of eventually pursuing a Ph.D. and even a post-doctorate, both of which would help me to further develop all of the skills I have acquired in my home country. Now, I see my Fulbright experience as a bumpy rollercoaster ride which used to scare me, but that I have come to thoroughly enjoy.